When will I get better?
Its a fair question
When a person has back pain, headaches, or been injured in a auto accident, “When will I get better?” is a fair question. The problem is, the question is very difficult to answer. As a chiropractor who treats many types of acute and chronic pain, I have some idea or estimates on how long it takes, but I can’t give definite hard numbers.
In fact, if you find a provider (either a medical physician or chiropractic physician) who is promising you a result in a fixed amount of time then you might want to consider getting a new physician. Body injuries are so complex, we can’t pin down the exact length of time. Estimates are fine, but not fixed numbers.
Recently I heard a patient tell me recently that they were told by another chiropractor that he could have them better after 30 treatments. My mouth dropped, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Surely the patient misinterpreted what the chiropractor had told them. There are so many variables in motion, trying to estimate a treatment plan 30 visits out is irresponsible. What if that patient gets better in 5 treatments? Do they still come in for the next 25?
Estimates and Time Ranges are good
When considering healing time, responsible chiropractors will give an estimate. And that estimate will be a short one. The answer to the question ought to sound a lot like this: “Well, let’s work on it 5-8 times over the next two weeks then re-evaluate.” The range of 5-8 is very reasonable for most chiropractic conditions. I am not promising that all conditions will resolve in the 5-8 treatments, but the vast majority will show some improvement in that range. If there is some modest improvement, then the treatment should continue until resolution, or MMI, or the patient plateaus. If there is no improvement after 8 treatments, then it is highly unlikely that adding 8 more will have an effect. At that point, further diagnostic testing and referral to another provider is in order.
A responsible physician (both medical and chiropractor) will perform re-evaluations on a regular basis. It is important for monitoring the case and noting any improvements or set-backs.
Back in South Dakota, I had a patient who injured his neck when he hit a bump in the road. The gentleman was fairly tall, and he hit his head on the ceiling of the car. I worked on his neck every other day for the first week. He did not improve. I took x-rays after the first week, and everything looked fine. I changed the treatment plan and added new therapies. A week later, he was not getting better, in fact, it was actually getting slightly worse. I referred him for a CT exam and it showed that he had a bone infection in his neck and he was losing critical bone mass due to the infection. Of course, I immediately sent him to the medical doctor for antibiotics to fight the infection. A few weeks later, with the infection gone, he returned to my office to repair the soft tissue injuries.
With this case, had I not performed the re-evaluation, I might have missed the infection. If I had him on a long, 30 visit treatment plan, he could have been left in a dire situation. The moral of the story is this: make sure your provider is performing routine examinations on you and not just giving you the cookie-cutter treatments visit after visit after visit.
Dr Andrew White
Pain Management Chiropractor St George Utah